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Tensions high after Angolan activists sentenced in “show trial”

These people gathered at Sagrada Familia in Luanda for a vigil for the activists. (Photo from Observer Rodrigues Bemvindo)
These people gathered at Sagrada Familia in Luanda for a vigil for the activists. (Photo from Observer Rodrigues Bemvindo)
Text by: Brenna Daldorph
3 min


Tensions are running high in the Angolan capital of Luanda after 17 Angolan activists were sentenced to prison in what many are calling a “show trial”. Many Angolans are already fed up with the government’s failure to manage the multiple crises shaking the country. Our sources on the ground say that activists are planning large-scale protests of the verdict… and that the authoritarian government seems worried.

The Angolan government says these young people were “conspiring to rebel” against the government of Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos, who has been the country’s dictator for almost four decades.

But, after the sentences were read out, Francisco Mapanda “Dago”— an attendee at the hearing—stood up and shouted “This judgment is a joke!” He was immediately arrested.

The feeling is widespread amongst activists and human rights groups, who say that the only thing that the young activists are guilty of is reading about democracy. The 17 activists— one of whom, Luaty Beirao worked with the Observers frequently in the past—were arrested in June 2015 when they were caught or suspected of reading Gene Sharp’s book about non-violent resistance to dictatorship. Originally, they were charged with planning a coup, but after a long period of incarceration and a trial that has dragged on for months, they were found guilty of “preparation for rebellion” and “criminal association” and sentenced to two to eight years in prison on Monday.

Our Observer, Luaty Beirao, is seen here on the last day of the trial. (Photo: Rodrigue Bemvido)

Amnesty International said the trial was carried out in an unfair manner after independent observers were banned from attending and called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the activists. Other Angolan activists, including respected journalist and Observer Rafael Morais de Marques, reported that “the trial has been marked by an absence of concrete evidence, failure to follow due process and the acceptance of hearsay and fiction as ‘proof’ of conspiracy.”

Human rights activists are especially worried about the health of Nuno Dala, who has been severely weakened from a hunger strike. He was given a sentence of four and a half years.

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